Exhibition Comments and Reviews

During the two day Dornoch exhibition a comment book was available for visitors to record their thoughts after seeing the exhibition.  Here are a selection of the comments received.

Rose – 2019

“The essence of Coul Links is captured in every sense.” Mike H.

“Totally worthwhile historical document of a treasured spot in this area. Love the smaller collages of the wildlife against the larger landscape pictures.”  Matthew Harris, Professional Photographer

“From someone who knows Coul Links intimately, you have done the most wonderful job of capturing its unique essence.”  Viki M.

“What an amazing exhibition.” Lynne Mahoney, Curator – History Links Museum

“Thankyou for breathing life into Coul Links! You have seen its hidden magic…”  Jenny T.

“What a great exhibition!  I applaud your efforts to widen folk’s perceptions both specifically of Coul Links and more broadly about the whole concept of ‘sense of place’.” John Alderson, Chairman – East Sutherland Camera Club

“An incredibly well thought out and presented exhibition” Mike T.

“I loved the way you presented your photographs, it made them appear so real, like you’re actually there.” Alex D.

“A wonderful exhibition giving a unique insight into the flora, fauna and dunes which goes largely unobserved.” Anonymous

“You have revealed the unsung beauty of an otherwise ‘unknown’ landscape.” Alison D.

“An excellent display. Having been shown around the proposed golf course, your video has given me a new dimension to contemplate the development.  I look forward to seeing your further work on this wonderful site.” Barry K.

“Great set of images of a complex area giving me lots of food for thought on its future ecology.” Stan H.


Additionally, a couple of people took the time to write more extensive reviews about the show.

Mick Yates’ review can be found Beyond the Noise review by Mick Yates.

Patrick Argyle an avid local amateur photographer wrote the following review.

“I think there were two aspects of this exhibition that came together to make it work so well: the quality of the work on display; the way the work was presented. I greatly admired and appreciated the quality of the work, especially the still photographs. The images were beautiful and beautifully printed and presented. The use of images   of different sizes and presenting them either individually or in groups was very effective.  The layout of the displays throughout the room was done in such a way that I could spend time studying each individual section before being led on to the next in a natural and relaxed way. There was a real flow from one area to the next. I felt the use of   different media to present material was handled very cleverly, exploiting the strong point of each:

  • a small screen video presentation on entering the gallery gave an excellent overview and background and history of to Coul Links;
  • photos arranged to great effect, some large scale showing wide areas of landscaped conveying the atmosphere of the location, other large ones of small areas of the links showing detail of the land and it’s contents;
  • other walls displayed boards on which were presented multiple miniature photos on certain topics such as flora and fauna;
  • a projection wall divided in to quadrants, onto each of which was projected, simultaneously aerial film taken by drone  of the land showing it in the four seasons of the year.

Overall, I found the exhibition much more interesting than I had expected and you showed me beauty in Coul Links I did not expect to see.”

Matt Sillars – Lecturer in Photography University of Highlands and Islands & Chair, FLOW Photofest

Reflections on ‘Beyond the Noise’

This body of work takes an anti-essentialist perspective. It refuses to walk the easy path and set out opposing positions, in relation to the development of the links, by defining the characteristics of each and placing them in opposition to each other – and then simply photographing the stereotype. The artificial construction of identity, as ‘developer’ and ‘environmentalist’, is deliberately disrupted and the links are presented as a complex space with a complex set of uses by individuals, rather than by ‘bodies’ of people who are ideological positioned in a debate.

Seeing the links as a historical space and not simply as a contested contemporary site, reveals its relationship to people over time and acknowledges that it is not, and never has been, a space easily defined by the broad brush strokes of heritage studies.   In the photographs are evidence of human intervention, from the buildings, fence posts and pathways, to the plantations, monuments and open ground.  Each indexical of people engaged in labour, industry and lives lived. Although seemingly passive landscapes sculpted by the elements, they evoke a range of paradigms which privilege people over nature and speak of the dynamic relationship between land and people – the definition of ‘place’.

Foucault discusses heterotopias as places which exist in the world, but which are connected in ways to other places and spaces, by ritual, by use, by assemblage. The photographs of the links inscribe hetertopias of time and space. Time, where the landscape has collected the past and represents it in snippets and glimpses. Thus, the past is always present in a natural museum, whose rooms and glass cases are the dunes, grasses, embankments and plantations. Space, where the fragments glimpsed are of different uses, are different spaces – of industry, or leisure, or travel, of work.

The body of work challenges the normative view of the ‘environment in need of protection’, and through the use of video and drones, plays with understandings of reality in a vein similar to Baudrillard’s hyperreality, where the difference between fiction and reality is blurred. Understanding is mediated by drone and digital technologies and the links are artificially reproduced in ways that play with the internet mediated campaign instigated to ‘save’ them.  ‘Beyond the Noise’ references not just the ideological noise, but the digital noise of hyperreality and conspicuous environmentalism, which has almost replaced conspicuous consumption as the ‘right’ of the middle classes.

The body of work, quite bravely, argues that the essentialist nature of the debate is irrelevant and actually unworthy of the links, which have a heritage and have a future regardless of the slice of reality we are confronting today, now.

All comments and reviews published with permission.

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